Nothing beats a bike for an alternate mode of short distance travel. A cheap bicycle that's well built can take on roads, grass, gravel, and even trails. For commuting, it's important to find a road bike with all-around performance and durability. One of the best selling bicycles in this category is the Phocus 1400 built by the world famous Schwinn company. The Phocus is considered an entry level bike but is way more expensive than our suggested model, the Merax 21 Speed. The Merax is fully loaded with more gears, more size options, and wider tires. Despite its feature rich build, the Merax has a price that will surprise you. Outsmart the brand, buy the Merax, and get a great bike at a great price.
The Schwinn name is recognized around the world as a leader in fantastic quality bicycles. Regardless of how great the bicycle is, you will be paying a premium for the name. That being said, we were surprised that the Merax outperformed or matched the Schwinn Phocus 1400 in all categories. If you are a die hard fan of Schwinn you will be pleased with this great entry level bike, but if you are money conscious we highly recommend the Merax.
We were not familiar with the Merax brand prior to our testing and extensive research. Although they are not extremely well known, their entry level 21 speed bicycle consistently ranked as one of the highest performers in all aspects of our testing. To top off its exceptional performance, this bicycle is one of the lowest cost entry level bikes on the market today. If you are looking for a great entry level bike at a cheap price you will love the Merax 21 speed.
The frame of a bicycle should be as light as possible while remaining durable and weather resistant. Both the Schwinn and the Merax opt for Aluminum road frames to achieve a balance between performance and durability.
The Merax 21 Speed also uses Aluminum for its frame. This lighter frame is more weather resistant than other cheap bicycles and provides more stability and less sway when accelerating.
Surprisingly, the Schwinn Phocus only comes in 1 size for men which is 58cm and for women they have the Women's Phocus 1600 which is more expensive and only comes in a 52cm.
The Merax 21 speed offers a wider range of sizes. Having 50cm, 54cm, and 58cms to choose from provides options that will fit both men and women with no additional costs.
Having a wider range of gears is important for being able to tackle different inclines. With only 14 gears the Schwinn is not using the latest technology that is found in 21 gear bicycles.
The Merax offers a full 21 gears, having this range of lower gears (for easier pedaling) is a huge advantage. You will be able to take on steeper inclines with less effort than on the Schwinn.
The Schwinn Phocus 1400 has drop bars give you several options for holding, which are applicable in different scenarios. We found that using the handshake grips in a drop bar reduces hand and wrist fatigue when riding longer distances.
Sporting the same style of drop bar handlebars, the less expensive Merax matches the Schwinn. These drop bars were more narrow than other commuter bikes we tested, which allowed us to fit through tighter lanes of traffic.
Outfitted with front and rear alloy caliper brakes the Schwinn was very responsive and came to a quick controlled stop.
The Merax is equipped with similar alloy caliper brakes and performed just as well in repeated aggressive stopping test.
The Schwinn Phocus 1400 uses a paired spoke which is merely for design aesthetics but compromise the rim integrity because of the weaker torque and irregular tension created from the gaps. The rims are wrapped with Kenda 26c tires that are more narrow than the Merax tires.
The Merax excels here by utilizing a two cross lace spoke design on a 700c with Kenda 28c. These spokes evenly distribute tension around the rim protecting it from impact and provide max torque transfer to the rims. The wheels are completed with 28c Kenda tires contributing to a smoother ride than the Schwinn.
A heavier bicycle requires more energy to get going and will require more distance to stop. At 29lbs the Phocus 1400 is 1.5lbs heavier than the Merax.
The low weight was one of the first things we noticed about the Merax. At 27.5lbs it's lighter than almost all of the similarly priced competitors.